Want to Wash Your Hair Less? Scalp Serums Are the Hot-Ticket Item to Know Now

Photo: Getty Images/ filadendron
For as long as any of us can remember, "hair care" has centered around actual, well, hair. Lately, however, we've learned that good hair starts at the root, and that means taking proper care of your scalp. "Hair care is scalp care, and scalp care is health care. When your scalp is off, your body’s off," says Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa hairstylist and trichologist Bridgette Hill. "We are now exploring what true hair care really entails. It has very little to do with the fibers of the hair, and for the most part, everything to do with the scalp."

After all, your scalp is actually skin, which means that it needs to be cared for in the same way you'd care for your face and body skin. Meaning: You wash it, scrub it, mask it, and now, slather it in a scalp serum. "Scalp serums promote healthy hair and hair growth," says hairstylist Kim Navarro of Los Angeles' 901 Salon. "When hair is washed too frequently, you're not allowing the natural hair oils to replenish. If you’re on the the other end of the spectrum, not washing often enough and using dry shampoo can lead to dry scalp and flakes." Just as different skin types require different serums to address their varying needs, the same principle also applies to your scalp.

First things first: identify what kind of scalp you've got

In order to pick the right treatment for your scalp, it's important to first ask what's going on up there. Are you oily? Dry and flaky? Is your hair thinning? "For the most part you’re going to be dealing with scalps that are over producing sebum and are oily, under producing sebum and are dry, or you have a combination of the two, and you’re experiencing some type of hair thinning or hair loss," says Hill.

An oily scalp happens in patches, and will make you constantly feel like your hair's dirty. As Hill explains it, an oily scalp is not the same thing as a sweaty or dirty scalp, which can be confusing. "You’re not going to feel a build up per se. When it’s like a wetness or a waxy build that means that you have an imbalance in the sebaceous gland, it’s very rarely the entire head," she explains.

If you have a dry scalp, it will extend to multiple areas on top of your head. "Dry scalp it tends to be more than one specific area," says Hill, who notes that you should look out for flakes all over if you think you may be dealing with this issue.

Then, select a serum for your scalp issue

Once you've determined the problem you're trying to solve, you need to find the right ingredients to get the job done. "Both dry and oily hair types should look for ingredients that lift dirt and grease from the scalp. This allows the scalp to breath better and gives the serum a good working surface," says Marilisa Sears, Artistic Director for MAV Beauty Brands. "For an oily scalp look for a serum that helps to clarify oily buildup with ingredients like apple cider vinegar. A dry scalp will benefit from something that gently removes excess buildup but also needs more hydration with ingredients like tea tree oil."

If you want to get the most bang for your buck when using a serum, start out with a scrub. "You want to gently remove any and all buildup so that your scalp and follicles receive the best possible results of a serum," explains Sears. One rule the pros live by: If you wash your hair daily, use a serum every other wash. If you're on a weekly shampoo schedule, serum up every time you lather.

Unlike products that you can spritz on your strands to make them instantly glossy and gorgeous, scalp serums take some time to work their magic. "These are not instant gratification products—these are commitments," says Hill. "It takes time because you have to give it full cycle of skin turnover and a full cycle of cellular turnover." So there you have lather, rinse, slather on a serum, repeat.

Best Serums for Dry Scalps

Renpure Tea Tree Lemon Sage Refreshing Moisture Scalp Serum
Renpure Tea Tree Lemon Sage Refreshing Moisture Scalp Serum — $13.00

With plant-based ingredients like tea tree oil, peppermint extract, eucalyptus, and coconut, this serum will cool your scalp while also nourishing it. It’s free of dyes, phthalates, and sulfates to be gentle on your skin.

Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment
Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment — $38.00

Treat your scalp to a dose of luxurious argan oil, which is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Apply a few drops to sections of the scalp, leave it on for 5-10 minutes, and then rinse and shampoo/condition as usual. In no time, you’ll say goodbye to a dry, itchy scalp.

Reverie CAKE Restorative Scalp Tonic
Reverie CAKE Restorative Scalp Tonic — $72.00

This tonic not only restores your scalp’s pH and hydrates, but it also promotes hair growth so you can enjoy healthy locks. It’s made with 100 percent natural ingredients like Swiss apple stem cells and hydrolyzed protein help delay hair follicles from aging and protects against environmental stress.

Kiehl's Magic Elixir Scalp and Hair Oil Treatment — $22.00

This Kiehl’s lightweight treatment has avocado oil and rosemary oil to leave both your scalp and hair feeling moisturized. Use it before shampooing to maintain healthy, shiny hair that’s easier to manage.

Living Proof Scalp Care Dry Scalp Treatment
Living Proof Scalp Care Dry Scalp Treatment — $34.00

Get relief from a dry, itchy scalp with these leave-in treatment that helps address the root of the problem. It has a vitamin B3-based microbiome that helps balance your scalp’s natural ecosystem, so your scalp stays healthier in the long run. Plus a hyaluronic acid based Molecular Patch soothes and hydrates.


Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil
Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil — $11.00

A hair oil that hydrates scalps and smooths split ends? Yes, please. Mielle’s strengthening oil is infused with rosemary oil, mint, and biotin to nourish hair and solve your dry scalp woes. It’s suitable for all hair types and textures.

Best Serums for Oily Scalps

Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal and Tea Tree Scalp Treatment
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal and Tea Tree Scalp Treatment — $32.00

Hydrate, balance, and detox your scalp with this Briogeo treatment. It has charcoal to draw out impurities that may clog your hair follicles, peppermint and tea tree oil to cool and reduce irritation, and witch hazel to balance oil production.

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse — $35.00

Swap out your regular shampoo with this gentle hair rinse, which cleans your scalp and hair without stripping out natural oils. It has apple cider vinegar, lavender extract, aloe vera, and argan oil to rebalance, hydrate, and smooth your hair.

Biologique Recherche Hair Lotion P50
Biologique Recherche Hair Lotion P50

This multi-purpose lotion helps strengthen hair, increase shine, balance pH, and exfoliate the scalp. It’s made for oily scalps and includes ingredients like lemon, sage, witch hazel, and a poly-alpha-beta hydroxy complex.

Best Serums for Thinning Hair

John Masters Organic Scalp Follicle Treatment & Volumizer
John Masters Organic Scalp Follicle Treatment & Volumizer — $24.00

Balance and renew your scalp so you can have fuller hair. This treatment has thyme flower/leave oil to refresh your scalp, white tea leaf extract to nourish it, and rosemary leaf oil to help add volume to your locks.

Collective Laboratories Activating Serum
Collective Laboratories Activating Serum — $49.00

Use this serum daily to revitalize and stimulate follicles to promote healthy hair growth. It has amino acids, minerals, and botanicals to help balance oil production, strengthen strands, and keep your hair shiny and full.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Root Resilience Anti-Aging Scalp Serum
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Root Resilience Anti-Aging Scalp Serum — $15.00

There’s no fountain of youth, unfortunately, but this anti-aging serum can at least help keep your scalp healthy and nourished so your hair can stay strong and thick. With amino acids, peptides, and vitamins, this serum combats the aging of your scalp and strengthens hair follicles.

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